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TOPKNOTS AND CROCKERY HATS
But when a great war broke out and a new line of rulers came into power, Kija declined to serve the king of the country and resolved to emigrate to the far East. There he would teach the savage people manners and refinement.
The new king was sorry to have Kija go, for he respected his character and wisdom. However he allowed five thousand of the best people, most of them Kija's followers, to accompany their master among the Eastern savages. Many of the common folks wept when they saw the emigrants leave China the flowery country to go into the Eastern wilderness and journey to an unknown region, full of dark swamps and thick forests. Kija was going where there were no roads, farms, or houses, and the woods were full of wild beasts, especially big bears and terrible tigers that liked to feed on human beings. It was even said that there were flying serpents that had wings and leopards that stood up holding lightning in their paws.
Over the great plains of Manchuria, Kija and his army of people, little folks and big ones, marched ever toward the rising sun, until they crossed the Duck Green River, which we call the Yalu. After a few days more, they came to the Great Eastern River (Ta Tong). There the land was very beautiful and Kija resolved to settle and build a city. From the tinted clouds at sunrise, rosy, golden, flushed with every shade of red, and lovely with changing colors the new country had been named Cho-sen, or Land of Morning Radiance. As the sun rose and raced toward the west, where his homeland lay, Kija welcomed the good omen as a double blessing. He saw in the calm of his first day in his adopted country a threefold pledge of continued good-will between the new kingdom and the old empire, Heaven's favoring sign of his loyalty to the Chinese Emperor, and the surety of good-will from the spirit of the Ever White Mountain.
Having laid out for his colony a city which was to be the capital of his kingdom, Kija began to build a wall. He named the city Ping Yang, which means Northern Castle.
"But now that we have safely arrived as after a voyage, the city shall be shaped like a boat," said Kija. "Within its walls no wells shall be dug, lest this, like boring holes, should make the boat sink. Then also, on the outside, to the west, shall stand the rock pillar to which the boat city shall be forever moored."
Kija was ably assisted by his wise men, who were skilled in literature, poetry, music, medicine and philosophy. Together they published eight great laws for the kingdom:
1. Agriculture for the men.
2. Weaving for the women.
3. Punishment of thieves.
4. Murderers to be beheaded.
5. All land to be divided into nine squares, the central one to be tilled in common for the benefit of the State.
6. Simple life for all.
7. The law of marriage.
8. Wicked people to be made slaves.
Kija laid out roads, established measures and distances and ordained the rules of politeness. He taught the savage people how to build good houses, each with roofs of thatch or tile and a kang, or warming place, by means of flues running under the floors. There was a fire at one end and a chimney at the other, so that the smoke came out of the ground half-way up the house wall. Twice a day, at morning and sunset, the people fed with fuel the furnaces or cooking place in the kitchen. Then the flames, heat and smoke passed through the flues, warming the rooms. Thus the houses were made cozy and comfortable. Every day one can see the morning and the evening cloud of the kang smoke hanging over the city. It is in these flues and around the cooking pots that Tokgabi, the merry scamp, plays his most mischievous tricks. He is a sooty fellow and loves nothing better than to amuse or plague mortal men.
The people of the land were very rough and savage in these early times and being constantly given to hard fighting, murder was common. So Kija found that he must devise some way to make them peaceable. At first he tried gentle methods. He saw that the rude fellows wore their hair long, letting their locks stream out over their backs and that they were often unkempt and slovenly to the last degree. Besides they hated combs and did not like to get washed.
So Kija republished the law of Dan Kun, the spirit of the mountain, who had two topknots. He ordered that every married man should bind up his hair into a knot, or chignon, on top of his head. Thus the Korean topknot was established by law. As for the younger fellows they must plait their hair and wear it in a braid down their backs. Until a man got a wife, he was only a boy, and must hold his tongue in presence of his elders. If caught wearing a topknot before he had a wife, he was paddled severely. Kija had introduced this spanking instrument and many boys and men felt it when they broke the law.
Nevertheless the rough people mistook the good purposes of Kija. They used the topknot as a handle to catch hold of when fighting in the streets. The big, burly fellows pulled the smaller men around most cruelly. Furthermore, they were accustomed to crack each other's skulls with clubs, so that many dead men were found in the streets. To stop these quarrels and murders, Kija invented a hat that would keep brawlers at least a yard apart.
"I'll settle their quarrels for them, once and forever," said Kija. "I'll make their fun cost each man a pretty rope of cash. Every time two bullies fight, they shall have a lot of crockery to pay for."
So Kija caused big heavy hats to be moulded of clay. These measured four feet across and were two feet high, weighing many pounds. These he had baked in ovens until they were hard as stone.
Then every fellow that had a bad temper, or was known to quarrel, or liked fighting, was compelled to cover his noddle with this heavy earthenware. Whenever a crowd of men-folks got together, they looked like a field of moving mushrooms.
When men fought and tried to grab one another's topknots or to punch one another's heads, they cracked their crockery. In this way Kija easily found out who broke the law and then he punished them. After being severely paddled, they had to go to the potter's and buy new hats of crockery ware. This made it quite an expensive affair, for a good half year's wages was required to pay for a hat.
Kija's wisdom was justified. The earthenware hats proved to be a good protection to the sacred topknots and the men liked them. Quarrelsome fellows stopped pulling each other's hair and smashing one another's heads. It got to be the custom, instead of punching a man's face or cracking his skull, to let off one's bad temper in scolding and calling names, glaring frightfully, or rolling one's eyes, — all of which of course made no blood flow. The bumpkin who could make the most frightful faces, grind his teeth most savagely, and look more like a devil than the other, was reckoned the bravest and the victor.
Before many months, a street quarrel got to be a perfectly silent battle of ugly faces and terrible gestures. What at first promised to be a bloody murder usually became a noiseless duel, or was like a tussle between deaf and dumb folks separated from each other. A quarrel furnished violent exercise for eyes and teeth only, but it passed off like steam out of a kettle. In time, a gentleness, like a great calm, settled over the land.
The crockery hats became all the fashion. They were very popular. Even the women wanted to wear them, because they were so useful. When turned upside down, they served as wash-bowls and many a good housewife borrowed her husband's second-best hat to do the family washing in. They were useful also for feed troughs and drinking basins for the horses and cattle and for donkeys to eat their beans out of.
The women, though not permitted to wear crockery bonnets, were pleased with the way Kija treated them. He took the clubs of the rough men, which they no longer needed, and handed them over to the wives and daughters to use in pounding the clothes on wash days and for ironing. In this way, the Korean women learned the wonderful art of putting a fine gloss on the starched clothes of the male members of the family, especially on the long white coat of the house father. Thus, by changing sticks that had been used as skull-crackers into starch polishers, Kija changed also ruffians into gentlemen. Ever since, Koreans have been famous for their politeness.
Happily, also, the men grew more refined in their manners and were kind to their wives and daughters, when they saw such shining clothes that glistened under the gentle rat-tat-tat of the ladies and female servants. When hot weather came and the gentlemen complained of the heat, and fearing that perspiration might spoil their fine clothes, Kija allowed them to make inside suits of bamboo sticks, as fine as thread or wire. Thus the Korean gentleman wore his outer clothes on a frame hung from his shoulders like a hooped skirt. It seemed like taking off one's flesh and sitting in his bones thus to wear bamboo underclothes.
By and by,
as manners improved, finding garments thus made from the cane-brake so
comfortable, the men gave up also their heavy crockery hats. In place of these,
they wore "bird cages" made of horsehair over their topknots, and
out-of-doors put on "roofs" of straw, reed, basket ware, or shining
black lacquered paper, according to their rank in society. Thus it came to pass
that Korea is the land of hats.